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How to market a sustainable brand and cut through the noise

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It's all great to have your brand accredited as a green corporation, but how do you follow through your good intentions with clear actions?

In this new era of consumerism, especially as consumer habits are shifting so much in the wake of the pandemic, claiming to be 'green' isn't enough anymore. Your brand must live and breathe sustainability, and go the extra mile to stand out amidts the ocean of other brands claiming to be just as sustainable as you. And there are several ways in which you can do that.

We have reached out to Michael Raven, Founder & Managing Director of Blazon Agency, to understand how to market a sustainable brand and what are the necessary steps to cut through the noise. You'll find his stellar advice below!

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Marketing Sustainable Brands

Many brands have recognised that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of purpose-driven companies that are incorporating ethical and social causes into their practice. IBM conducted a study that reported 70 percent of consumers would even pay a premium of 35 percent, on average, for brands that are sustainable and environmentally responsible. So, with consumers willing to pay over a third more for products and services that are aligned to their values, what does it really take for brands to position themselves correctly? And, crucially, how can a business prove that they are not just greenwashing their customer's eyes for some quick, easy value add?

The value of transparency

“Micro-needs” have now been established as a top priority for consumers, meaning that they want brands to specifically cater to what they consider ‘essential’ or ‘value’ to their ethical concerns. With thousands of brands claiming they are ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘vegan’, companies must be going that extra mile to set themselves apart from the crowd. Customers want to understand a product’s lifecycle from start to finish and every process involved in the middle. You can launch an exciting fashion brand made from “vegan” materials, but if your packaging is still made from plastic, you need to go back to the drawing board. 

It’s all too easy to be accredited with some green credentials and think that this is enough to convince consumers that you're changing the world for the greater good. The truth is, hundreds of different brands on the market are considered to be ‘eco-friendly’, so this just doesn’t quite make the cut anymore. In the eyes of the consumer, they want a brand to stand out to them in more than one way. Brands need to consider where their audience is based, and what environmental concerns are important to them. They need to look closely at how they can alleviate some of these issues in their industry, and demonstrate how their product can be used to have a positive impact on wider societal issues. Consumers don’t just want to purchase a product that is made out of sustainable materials anymore, they want a product or service that will categorically change their lifestyle and the lifestyles of the people around them.

Consumers don’t just want to purchase a sustainable product anymore, they want a product or service that will categorically change their lifestyle and the lifestyles of the people around them.

There are several ways brands can gain brand awareness, but if you’re marketing yourself as ‘sustainable’, traditional methods of marketing like throwaway flyers and brochures shouldn’t be one of them. Consumers want to see brands living and breathing environmentally responsible practices, and this should start with your day-to-day business operations. A good example of this is implementing environmentally positive structures into your business for your staff, like a cycle-to-work scheme for example. If a brand is focused on creating positive change at its core, it should start with its own corporate social responsibility. Once a customer can see that a brand is having a positive impact on their own employees’ environmental footprint, they will be much more likely to believe that they want to have an impact on their customer’s ones too. 

More than ever, customers are also looking for innovation in the products they buy, which means that brands also need to be innovative in the way they market themselves. With a large proportion of digital consumers reporting environmental concerns to impact their purchasing decisions, it is becoming crucial for companies to find new ways to fly their green flag. 

Brands need to be creative with their marketing methods and one of the best ways they can achieve this is by optimising their social channels. With the latest technological advances, consumers have brands at their fingertips, and the accessibility to shop any time of the day, any day of the week. For these reasons, it is essential new brands are communicating their ideas effectively over social media, and tapping into the correct audience.

A Throwaway Society

We all understand the impacts of the ‘throwaway society’ we live in. Consumers are looking at brands to account for some of this responsibility, and want to see which ones are taking ownership of the environment and combat this overconsumption. One of the easiest ways to capture your consumer's attention is to be transparent with them. Digitally-native audiences are no longer looking for the high-budget television commercials that were once offered to them. They want relatable content that resonates with them in an individual capacity; which is actually relatively affordable and easy to achieve if they are using the correct channels and tools. 

Instagram and TikTok are dominating the Millenial and Gen Z market allowing consumers to browse and buy their products within a matter of minutes using uninterrupted in-app browsers. This demonstrates how much consumer behaviour has shifted over the past couple of years, and how much it could potentially change in the future too. With the Millenial and Gen Z audience proving to be the driving force behind environmentally conscious consumer behaviour, brands need to embrace these social marketing strategies and look at how they can be capturing the younger generation’s attention for long-term growth. 

Leveraging the capabilities of social-first video production can be a great way of achieving this. Short explainer and tutorial videos can easily demonstrate how a brand is being responsive to climate crisis and can engage your audience on an emotional level. Consumers want you to rise to the occasion and demonstrate why you deserve their loyalty, so make sure to dive right into the details and shout about your latest environmental initiatives and partners. 

Finally, the most crucial but surprisingly forgotten method of marketing a sustainable brand is to make sure your product is as effective as it claims to be.

Your brand can be deemed to be the ‘greenest’ corporation on the planet, but if your selling point sucks, your well-thought-out marketing strategy is likely to amount to nothing. Brands need to spend the time doing their market research and prioritising their materiality analysis. Consumers might be prepared to pay a higher-price point on sustainable goods, but more likely than not, they will also want to see that their product has been tried and tested beyond its environmental excellence. Once your brand has been verified as a valuable investment, you’ll be on the fast track to making waves in your industry and gaining some loyal followers.

Michael Raven is the Founder & Managing Director of Blazon PR.

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